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My take: It’s never too early to be thinking about Surfaces 2019

September 17/24, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 7

By Steven Feldman

For the past seven years, Floor Covering News has sponsored the flooring component of the comprehensive TISE (Surfaces) education program. Once again, we will be a co-sponsor in 2019, this time under the banner Converge. It is inarguably the strongest, most comprehensive package this industry has to offer. And the best part: It’s free if you register by a certain date.

Honestly, the education alone is worth a trip to Surfaces, and that’s even before the doors open for market hours. Which brings me to a thought I had the other day: Now is the time for retailers to start planning to be in Las Vegas the third week in January. Not attending is really not an option.

I know there are many people who not only know right now they will attend, but they already have made their plane and hotel room reservations. Then there are the people who have already decided they will not attend. They may belong to a retail group, some of which implore their members to stay home because they prefer they buy strictly from core vendors. Their stance is their private-label strategy more than offsets any advantages that can be gained by finding differentiated products at Surfaces from new suppliers.

People may also choose to bypass the industry’s most important trade show because they attend one or both of the major mills’ regional events. And for 2019, you have the big Shaw Flooring Network convention, which precedes Surfaces with a one-day overlap. Some dealers believe they can’t be away from their businesses for a couple of days three times in the month of January.

Another reason is cost. (But that’s why I’m here.) I don’t think every dealer realizes it is not necessarily cost prohibitive to attend Surfaces. For those who want to attend the show on a shoestring, here’s something to consider:

Take the first flight out from your city on Wednesday morning, Jan. 23. If you’re not on the East Coast, odds are you’ll land in Vegas before the show opens. (By the way, pack light and don’t check a bag; you don’t have time to wait.) Take the short taxi ride to Mandalay Bay. Spend a day at the show and intersperse some educational sessions. At day’s end, walk through the Shoppes at Mandalay Place and check yourself into the Luxor. You’ll get a room for about $100. Eat dinner, not necessarily at a five-star restaurant.

Attend educational sessions the next day. You have options in the morning before the show floor opens, around lunchtime and later in the day. Walk the show floor. Make sure you see exhibitors you never knew existed until you stumbled onto their spaces. Then grab a taxi to the airport and get out of Dodge.

In this scenario, you have attended two days of Surfaces and a number of seminars. At what cost? If you can fly Southwest, you’ll get to Vegas and back for anywhere between $140 and $350. The hotel will run you around $125 with tax. Two taxis, let’s say about $50. (It’s always more expensive coming rather than going.) A few meals? You can do that easily for under $125 in Vegas. Grand total: Anywhere from $450 to $650. Of course, this doesn’t include any activity at the tables, which could net you a profit for the trip if you’re lucky. It also doesn’t include alcohol, which for some can cost more than the hotel room.

And here’s the topper: A major retailer friend of mine once told me, “I make money by coming to Surfaces.” How? He takes advantage of the litany of show specials available to dealers for only three days. And trust me, he doesn’t attend the show on a shoestring.

It’s really a no brainer.